CANVAS Weekly Update – April 7th, 2023


April 7, 2023

Dear Friends, 

CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report! 

Conflict Update: 

As Finland formally joined NATO this Tuesday, Russia assessed this move as a “dangerous and historic mistake.” Many of the pro-Kremlin activists in Moscow had protested against NATO and its expansion. At the same time, Moscow officials warned Finland it would have to take counter-measures if Finland’s accession to NATO brought about the escalating risks of conflict. The EU leaders arrived in Beijing to discuss the prospects for the Ukrainian War resolution with Chinese President Xi and welcome Xi’s willingness to hold talks with Zelenskyy. Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy visited Warsaw, claiming that Poland would help form a coalition of Western powers to supply warplanes to Kyiv. 
Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem twice on Wednesday, resulting in a violent scene in which at least 350 worshippers were removed from the mosque, and over a dozen Palestinians were injured. The attacks triggered a cross-border conflict as Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel on Thursday. The Israeli military responded with targeted air strikes on the Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. No casualties from the airstrikes have been reported on either side.  
In Lisbon and other cities in Portugal, thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday in a protest against soaring rents and house prices. At the rally in Lisbon, Rita Silva from the Habita housing organization declared, “There is a severe housing crisis right now” and “This is a social emergency.”  
Protests over pension reform in France continued into Thursday’s eleventh day of nationwide demonstrations. Protesters targeted a bistro favored by President Macron and burned garbage cans on the streets. Protesters and labor unions plan to continue strikes and demonstrations until the legislation is completely abandoned. 



The Taliban has issued an order that bans Afghan women who work as UN staff members  from continuing to work. The UN is assessing the impact of losing the 400 Afghan women that work for the UN.  All staff members, male and female, have been told by the UN not to return to work for 48 hours while the risk of the ban is assessed. 

Three British men are being held in Taliban custody in Afghanistan, including a so-called “danger tourist,” a charity medic, and a hotel manager. The UK foreign minister said that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is working hard to contact the nationals and support their families.



After a video of a man throwing yogurt at two uncovered women near Mashhad, Iran, went viral, President Raisi claimed that the hijab is a legal matter of the Iranian state. Shortly after the “yogurt attack,” judicial authorities ordered the arrest of two women for violating Iran’s dressing rules and “committing a forbidden act.” According to Iran’s judiciary, the man who attacked women was also arrested for disturbing public orderAlmost simultaneously with this event, the Iranian authorities decided to enforce the compulsory hijab on women, giving the Iranian judiciary 48 hours to come up with measures to stop women from flouting the hijab rules.

On Tuesday, Iran officially appointed its new ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, just before their meeting in China on April 6. The meeting between Iran and UAE representatives in Beijingrepresents the first formal diplomatic meeting after seven years, after which they issued the joint statement regarding reopening diplomatic missions and resuming flights between the two states.



After the issues regarding the oil exportation from northern Iraq, which caused strong disagreements between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government and negatively affected diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey, the dispute was finally resolved this Tuesday. The news was announced by the Iraqi PM, who informed that Iraq’s government with KRG reached an agreement by which the oil exports via Turkey will resume. Even though he emphasized that the dispute resolution is only temporary, the Iraqi PM believes it is a first step towards ending the long-lasting dispute. 



The Israeli military has accused the Palestinian militant organization Hamas of launching multiple missiles into northern Israel from southern Lebanon. The attack comes after tension between Palestinians and Israelis escalated after the police raid on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Most of the 34 missiles launched were shot down, but five made contact with Israeli land and damaged buildings. Hamas claimed not to be responsible; however, the Israeli military responded with airstrikes on the country. 



At the Uganda High Commission in South Africa, more than 200 demonstrators protested against the new anti-gay legislation in Uganda. The Economic Freedom Fighters opposition group from South Africa and LGBTQ community activists organized the march on Tuesday. It urged the South African government to oppose the legislation. The Ugandan president has suggested that he will sign the controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill into law and has called on other African countries to create similar legislation. 



Negotiating meetings were scheduled to begin Saturday but postponed to Thursday due to delays and a “lack of consensus on some outstanding issues,” according to military leaders. Wednesday, negotiations continued, but a second delay in signing the transitional deal was announced. Disagreements over the timeline for integrating the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into the military have simmered over the past few weeks. On Thursday, the new delay in the military-to-civilian transition prompted a new wave of protests. It also marks a symbolic date for Sudan’s civilian opposition, the anniversary of uprisings in 1985 and 2019, all calling for the military to be removed from politics.



Concerns about the upcoming elections continue as freedom of speech and association are cracked down upon. Twenty-six people were arrested at a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) opposition party meeting raided by police. It has been increasingly common for opposition members and government critics to be jailed and held without trial, often for “illegal gathers” or “inciting violence.” CCC says, since the start of 2022, almost 100 of their supporters have been arrested and spent periods in detention without any trials. Thursday, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere was convicted of “communicating falsehoods” for posting a Tweet of police beating a woman with a baby strapped to her back in 2021. While she received a $500 (USD) fine, others, have faced 20 years in prison for the same charge.


The United States:

After being accused of violating election laws by the prosecutors in Manhattan last week, Donald Trump was charged with 34 more felony counts this Tuesday. After the court presented these charges and asked how he pleaded, Trump claimed he was not guilty. In the meantime, US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday to discuss increasing arms sales despite rising threats from China.

In a rare event, following the shooting at a Nashville elementary school last week, two Democratic lawmakers have been expelled from Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives for their role in protesting for gun control laws.  To show support for the three Democratic lawmakers, thousands of demonstrators gathered at the Tennessee statehouse.



During the weekend behind, significant EU actors announced their negotiations with China. Namely, the Spanish PM paid a visit to Beijing last Friday, where he encouraged Xi Jinping to talk with the Ukrainian President and find a peace formula with Russia. Meanwhile, the main German oppositional leader Friedrich Merz called for Europe and Germany to rethink their ties with China and thus jointly work on their negotiations on their great dependence on China. On Monday, Ursula Von Der Leyen announced that she would pay a visit to Beijing from April 5 to April 7 with French President Emmanuel Macron after the EU and China relations turned strained. The purpose of this trip is to reduce the risk in diplomatic and economic fields. On the same day, it was reported that the Chinese spy balloon eventually did succeed to gather intelligence from several U.S. military sites by getting electronic signals.

Chinese President welcomed von Der Leyen and Macron on Thursday in Beijing. Whereas both announced that their visit would send a message of unity and that they would touch upon the matters of halting the Ukraine war, the only known information so far is that during their meeting, Macron emphasized the importance of China’s influence on Russia, and thus urged Xi to use it to help stop Russian war on Ukraine to an end. After the first meeting, Xi announced that he was willing to speak with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In the meantime, China hosted the first formal diplomatic meeting between Iran and UAE in Beijing.



Indonesia’s ASEAN representatives have been the target of criticism as violence in Myanmar continues. Despite Indonesia calling and leading an emergency ASEAN summit condemning the junta, no significant action has been taken against the military. 
Three Indonesians were convicted of human trafficking from other Asian nations and forcing victims into call centers, reflecting a broader increase in human trafficking. The most recent US annual in-person trafficking report revealed this trend occurring in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Myanmar as well. 



Global apparel retailers are ending their outsourced production in Myanmar due to issues with labor and human rights as well as operational challenges, including Fast Retailing in Japan and Marks and Spencer in the UK. Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo, is the most recent company to leave Myanmar, removing partners there from its list of apparel manufacturing and processing facilities. 

Since Wednesday, thousands of Burmese have fled to Thailand as a result of intense combat between military forces and troops of an ethnic armed group. They are escaping the town of Shwe Kokko, which is governed by a pro-military militia. This is one of the biggest cross-border population movements since the military takeover two years ago. 

On Friday, Hkalam Samson, a Baptist preacher in Myanmar, was given a six-year prison termfor terrorism, unlawful association, and inciting dissent to the government. The accusations have been refuted by Mr. Samson, a 65-year-old former leader of the Kachin Baptist Convention in Myanmar. His backers, which included international human rights organizations, demanded his immediate release and claimed that the allegations were made up by the military-led dictatorship in order to silence him.



Sixty-three detained members of the Chinese Christian church are facing deportation despite receiving UN refugee status. The group faced persecution in China and was arrested due to overstaying their visas. Human Rights Watch released a statement calling on the Thai government not to repatriate them. Both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Immigration Bureau officials have commented on the potential of finding a way to send the detainees to a “third country.” Additionally, in recent days, more than 5,000 people have fled Myanmar into Thailand as fighting has intensified, with officials unsure about accommodating them. HRW also released a report calling the upcoming May 14th elections “fundamentally flawed,” citing recent instances of oppression, censorship, and unfair non-democratic processes.



During the visit of a Russian envoy to Belarus, Russian ambassador  Boris Gryzlov spoke of the intent to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus by July 1st to “ensure security.” While previously threatened by Putin, this action would be seen as a move of escalation against the West. Thursday, as Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko visited Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated to reporters that the placement of weapons is a response to NATO expansion. Tuesday, Polish minority activist, Andzelika Borys, was released, and the charges of harming national security and inciting violence dropped after two years in Belarusian custody.